Violet (Vy) Ngo's ' Summer 2018 SPUR Reflection

Vy Ngo headshotAs a double major in Psychology and International Relations and a minor in Economics, I have always been interested in several aspects of social psychology, especially the field’s prospect of creating a more compassionate society. Specifically, I have been eager to explore the area of consumer behaviour and decision-making. However, because I only attend a small liberal arts college, I did not have any chance to participate in an active lab with such specific focus.

Therefore, I decided to apply to the Society for Personality and Social Psychology’s Summer Program for Undergraduate Research, with the hope of gaining insights in the field of consumer behaviour. I am extremely grateful to have had the privilege to work in Professor Hal Hershfield’s lab and received mentoring and training from Ph.D. student Elicia John, at University of California, Los Angeles’s Anderson School of Management.

My primary responsibility was to assist Professor Hershfield and Elicia in their research project that intersects the conceptualization of meaning, motivation, and racial perception. This project introduced me to different experimental concepts and methodologies that I was not familiar with, and with the support of my mentors, I was inspired to learn new things each day in the lab.

I had the opportunity to be involved in several research assistant tasks, such as conducting literature reviews, running participants, creating pre-test surveys, analyzing and reporting data. I specifically appreciate the many chances that I had in the lab to conduct literature reviews; by doing this task, I was exposed to many topics and concepts that I had yet to understand before, such as the end-of-history illusion, the psychology of retirements and life regrets. Although it was sometimes challenging to grasp these new concepts, I believe that my critical skills of evaluating scientific articles and experiments have improved tremendously.

Aside from the primary project, Professor Hershfield and Elicia made sure that I would not miss an opportunity to be involved in other projects and learn new skills from other Ph.D. students in the lab. Thanks to my mentors’ help, I was able to contribute to several research topics and gain insights in other sub-fields of social psychology and techniques, such as using advanced coding programs in order to collect data from the internet and to conduct data analysis. This experience, together with many discussions in which I got to take part in the lab, further deepened my understanding of the field and expanded my interest in it.

Moreover, I was able to create a lot of professional networks throughout the internship. Professor Hershfield introduced me to many academics in the field and got me involved in projects with them, and Elicia invited me to the weekly lab meetings, where I met plenty of professors, Ph.D. students and lab managers, whose different research areas greatly broadened my perspectives.

Alongside the skills and knowledge that I gained, I am truly grateful for this unique experience because it showed me the glimpse of how my life would be if I become a researcher. Research will give me the freedom to explore and learn new things every day, and find answers and solutions that might bring positive impacts on the modern society. Throughout the summer, I learn to step out of my comfort zone, embrace all challenges and treat them as opportunities to conquer new quests. Most importantly, thanks to this internship, I was able to build confidence in myself, in my abilities and in my pursuit of being a researcher.

I was extremely lucky to be one of the participants in SPSP’s SPUR program. This experience taught me valuable lessons that I will always treasure as I move on. Many thanks to SPSP for making this internship possible. And I cannot express enough my appreciation and gratitude towards Professor Hershfield, Elicia and other members in the lab. Thank you very much for making this summer one of the most eye-opening and meaningful summers of my life!

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